Music

September Girls: Cursing the Sea

Yet another fuzzy "Girls" group shows on their debut album that they can hold their own.


September Girls

Cursing the Sea

Label: Fortuna POP!
US Release Date: 2014-03-11
UK Release Date: 2014-03-11
Label website
Amazon
iTunes

Another day, another '60s-worshiping band whose name ends in "girls". With the "Vivian" out of the picture, you'll forgive September Girls for jumping to seize some open real estate right next "Dum Dum". Of course, they'll have to forgive us if we act like we've heard their spiel before. An all-female band posing in black in their press kit and wishing they were in the Jesus and Mary Chain has perhaps one of the most common sights in rock these past few years. Which isn't to say that any of those elements are bad, just that there's a formula at play here that, for better or worse, such bands must navigate.

There must be something in the long, drippy Celtic winters that attracts people to gloomy, distorted pop because September Girls hail from just across the water from their Scottish forebearers in Dublin. After a couple of years of vinyl and cassette releases, this winter they put out their debut full-length, Cursing the Sea. Referred to in their press kit simply by their first names (which I admit I felt charmingly informal), Laura, Jessie, Caoimhe, Paula and Sarah's first offering didn't do much upon initial listenings to distinguish itself from the noise-revivalist pack for me. The lockstep rhythm, echoey guitars and hushed lyrics all kinda ran together. But, like a good Jesus and Mary Chain album, the more I listened, the more luxurious the torrents of noise became and the more the sweetness of the vocal melodies started to peek out.

The heart of Cursing the Sea lies in tracks four through six, a trio of songs that shows the band at its money-down best. Lead single "Heartbeat" actually finds some vocals breaking through the heavy atmosphere for the ass-kickingly dismissive chorus of "don't call me baby - I'm not yours". Following in its footsteps is "Green Eyes", where a minor-key Sleater-Kinney style guitar intro quickly melds with wailing keys to create an air of uneasy menace that still manages to pull the listener in for more. "Ships", by far the record's most compelling track, with an intro featuring the kind of spiky guitarwork and heavy bass that would be more at home on Savages' debut than a fuzz rock record. This murderer's row lurking in the heart of the record alone makes it an compelling debut.

There are still a number of things that September Girls could work on. I did have a bit of a chuckle at the press kit's florid descriptions of various songs' lyrical content because, not unlike the guitars, the vocals are mixed into a hazy middle ground that makes it difficult to draw a distinct bead on them. It's a neat effect when you're talking about walls of distortion and tones but it is a little frustrating when your dealing with melodies catchy enough to want to sing along with but too indistinct to actually hear the words. I was intrigued, for example to read that "Sister" deals with "the thorny subject of rape and victim-blaming in society", a subject that I'd be more than interesting in hearing the band's reaction to, if only I could actually make out what was being said.

To be fair, there are a few songs that skew close to paint-by-numbers lo-fi indie rock but this is a record that refuses to hew too neatly to expectations. As we near the close, the Girls show us that they don't spend every night crying in their whiskey on the ecstatically bouncy "Someone New". This is followed by a series of exercises in rhythm ("Secret Lovers") and noise ("Sister") that show that the band is still learning how to stretch its sound and might have more up their all-black sleeves than initially meets the eye. I have to admit that despite the total lack of a lack for yet another fuzzy girl group, I'm more than happy to give September Girls' next effort a spin to see what those surprises might be.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web

Melkbelly splices insanely supercharged punk energy with noise-band drums and super catchy pop melodies. It's a bewildering, intoxicating sound which has caught the attention of underground Chicago audiences. We ask singer Miranda Winters how it works.

"I've always, I guess, struggled to decide what kind of music I wanted to play, something sort of abrasive and loud or something sort of pop and folky. I would bounce back and forth between the two," says Miranda Winters, the dynamic singer who careens between pretty girl pop croons and banshee wails in the course of, really, almost any song in the Melkbelly catalog. "When we first started Melkbelly, the goal was to figure out how to make them work together, but I don't know that we actually knew that it would work when we started."

Keep reading... Show less
Music

Fever Ray: Plunge

Photo courtesy of Rabid Records

Returning eight years after her solo debut as Fever Ray, Karin Dreijer extends the sonic identity of her project, thriving in the chaos and disorientation that her electric visions produce.

The solo project of Karin Dreijer (one half of the excellent electronic duo the Knife) could not arrive at a better time. With the Knife no longer active, and eight years having pass since her debut record under the Fever Ray moniker, Dreijer revisits many of the stylistic intricacies inherent in the Knife's DNA, while further evolving her take on Fever Ray.

Keep reading... Show less

Often screwball comedies feature sharp contrasts between social classes, with not-so-subtle commentaries on the idle rich, and that's here in triplicate.

The Philadelphia Story is one of those legendary Hollywood films and not just because it stars Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart—three iconic actors from Hollywood's Golden Age. Partly that's because the stories behind its making are as fascinating as the film itself.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image